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Lorely writes for mayorwatch...

October 21, 2006 1:44 PM

Lorely Burt MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equality, writes in an article published today for the mayorwatch website why Ruth Kelly's apparent stance on the issue of bisexual, lesbian and gay equality makes her position "untenable".

"On Sunday 15th October the front page of the Observer was splashed with the story that Ruth Kelly, Minister for Communities and Local Government, has let her own personal religious convictions interfere with her role, which, in part, involves being the supposed champion of LGBT rights at the heart of Government

If this is true, than I can see no other option than to call for Ms. Kelly to resign.

I fully support everyone's right to freedom of conscience, but when someone's own beliefs actively prevent them from fulfilling the duty that that were put in place to perform, then that person's position has become untenable.

The cause of the contention in Government circles are the proposals to outlaw discrimination, on the grounds of sexual orientation, in the provision of goods and services. These proposals could put an end to the situation where a hotel owner can legally refuse to allow a gay couple to stay in one of their rooms simply because he or she disagrees with homosexuality.

The difficulty, now according to Government sources, and presumably Ms. Kelly, is whether there should be an opt-out for people on the grounds of their religious faith. It is, according to them, "difficult" to say a Bed and Breakfast, owned by a Christian, should be forced to comply with the regulations as well.

This thinking is, in my view, entirely muddled. When someone is operating in a commercial sphere there should be no automatic exemptions whatever the source of their beliefs.

People may disagree with homosexuality for a variety of reasons. These reasons can be religious or secular. What I feel is unjustifiable is that someone would only be barred from actively discriminating against homosexuals if they held their beliefs for secular reasons, but not if they held that belief for religious reasons.

People in our society who hold religious beliefs should enjoy no special status above people with secular beliefs. We should never enshrine one as superior to another in law, which essentially is what is being proposed.

Atheist philosopher Ayn Rand opposed homosexuality for one reason and the Archbishop of Westminster is opposes it for another, however, I do not view one as being more justified in participating in discrimination than the other.

For Ms Kelly to elevate the views of her Catholic faith above secular beliefs and to the detriment of gay rights, which she is supposedly meant to be promoting, is not acceptable to me, nor I suspect to the LGBT community."

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